The End of Life Choice Act 2019 is now in force. This means that a person with a terminal illness who meets the eligibility criteria can ask for medical assistance to end his or her life.
In this article we talk about the key provisions and also consider what that might mean for certain situations such as for landlords and managed accommodation.
Who is an eligible person?
An eligible person means a person who:
- Is aged 18 years or over; and
- Is a New Zealand citizen or permanent resident; and
- Suffers from a terminal illness that is likely to end the person’s life within 6 months; and
- Is in an advanced state of irreversible decline physically; and
- Experiences unbearable suffering that cannot be relieved in a manner that the person considers tolerable; and
- Is competent to make an informed decision.
The Act states that a mental disorder or illness, disability, or advanced age alone does not make a person eligible for assisted dying.
Where might a person choose to end their life?
An eligible person can choose where they wish to be when the medication is administered to end his or her life. It is expected that assisted dying services will generally be provided in a patient’s home or a community setting such as a hospice or rest-home, as opposed to a hospital.
While section 8 permits health practitioners to conscientiously object to providing assisted dying, the Act is silent as to whether any other organisations or individuals outside the healthcare sector can object to and prohibit assisted dying.
Managed accommodation facilities
The Ministry of Health has stated that managed accommodation (such as aged care facilities) can conscientiously object to assisted dying and prohibit it from taking place on the premises. However, managed accommodation facilities that object to assisted dying must still adopt policies that allow for appropriate arrangements to be made elsewhere.
A landlord’s obligations
A landlord who objects to euthanasia may question whether he or she has a right to prohibit a tenant who is eligible under the End of Life Choice Act, from exercising the option of receiving assisted dying, in the rental property.
It is unlikely that a landlord can interfere with a tenant’s choice to receive assisted dying under the Act.
This is because under the Residential Tenancies Act 1986 (RTA), discrimination is declared to be unlawful when granting, varying, terminating or renewing a tenancy agreement. A landlord is also prohibited from stating an intention (by advertisement or otherwise), when granting a tenancy agreement, or when advertising to prospective tenants, to discriminate against any person.
It is also unlawful under the RTA to, on the basis of a prohibited ground of discrimination, treat any person who is seeking accommodation differently to others in the same circumstances, deny any person accommodation, or impose a condition which limits the class of persons who may be tenants.
Could there be discrimination under the Human Rights Act?
The Human Rights Act 1993 outlines the unlawful grounds of discrimination. Ethical belief is one of these grounds.
While there is no authority on this, ethical belief may encompass a person’s conviction to end his or her life by euthanasia. This means that the following may be discriminatory on the grounds of ethical belief:
- A prohibition on assisted dying in the property as a condition of a tenancy agreement;
- A verbal statement to prospective or existing tenants to this effect;
- Denial of a rental property to a person who has expressed support for assisted dying;
- Termination of a tenant on the grounds that he or she has expressed a desire to receive assisted dying.
Even if the termination of a tenancy on the above ground is not considered discriminatory, it will likely still be unlawful, as there are limited circumstances in which a tenancy can be terminated. It is unlawful for a landlord to act to terminate a tenancy without a valid ground.
Finally, there is also a practical point – there is potential for adverse publicity if a tenant wanted to take these steps and a landlord refused.
As a landlord, housing organisation or another organisation altogether, it is critical to consider your obligations under the End of Life Choice Act.
If you need further clarity you can contact Grace Watson firstname.lastname@example.org who would be more than happy to talk with you about your particular situation.
 Ministry of Heath “End of Life Choice Act – Funding and Delivery Model for Assisted Dying Services” (July 2021) <www.health.govt.nz>.